‘The most generous garden imaginable’ ~ Anna Pavord.
On both occasions that I have visited Great Dixter I was filled with a sense of upliftment. The garden exudes a vibrancy of life and an abundance of unconventional ideas, it is enchanting and so different. I have always admired Christopher Lloyds charming gardening programs, and his inspirational books. He inspired gardeners to be brave about colour, to experiment with plants and above all to be observant. ”Using your eyes is critical and you need to study your border year-round, pretty well every day in fact, ever criticising, ever assessing and working out how things might be done better,” he wrote in his last book, Successsion Planting.
Great Dixter is both a historic and a family home. Built in the middle of the 15th century and then restored and enlarged by Sir Edwin Lutyens who was commissioned by Christopher Lloyd’s father Nathaniel in 1910 to clear the fifteenth-century house of later alterations. The medieval splendour of the Great Hall, the largest surviving timber-framed hall in the country was revealed after the alterations.
Most of the garden design was by Lutyens. Christopher’s father Nathaniel, was responsible for the design and the making of the Sunk Garden, which was originally a lawn. Nathaniel Lloyd loved gardens, and imparted that love to his son. Lloyd learned the skills required of a gardener from his mother Daisy, who did the actual gardening and who introduced him to Gertrude Jekyll.
In 1954, Lloyd moved home to Great Dixter and set up a nursery, specialising in unusual plants. He regularly opened the house and gardens to the public. Lloyd was firmly rooted in the Arts and Crafts style of garden. In most ways he was, like his mother and Gertrude Jekyll, a practical gardener. He said “I couldn’t design a garden. I just go along and carp.”
Incorporating many medieval buildings, the gardens surround the house, each complementing the other. Christopher made many changes during his lifetime at Great Dixter. His philosophy of mixed borders, not herbaceous, provide colour and form year round. He also believed in no segregated colour schemes. The bedding plants are changed twice or sometimes three times a year depending on summer annuals that may not last the season through.
There is a wide variety of interest from yew topiary, carpets of meadow flowers, the colourful tapestry of mixed borders (including the famous Long Border), natural ponds and the exuberant Exotic Garden.
Christopher Lloyd, who died in 2006, was, above all, a wonderfully creative, free-spirited gardener. One of the UK’s greatest horticulturist, he devoted his lifetime to creating one of the most experimental, exciting and constantly changing gardens of our time.
Continuing Christopher Lloyd’s traditions, his head gardener Fergus Garret and his team continue to experiment ceaselessy throughout the garden; returning throughout the seasons will reveal the ever changing spirit of this inspirational garden.